Category Archives: I imbibe

My new favorite drink

Last night, I had a birthday drink at one of my favorite swanky cocktail places, Clover Club. I had spent some time looking at the menu online before heading over and had one picked out (The Wanderer), but when I got there, they’d swapped out a new menu for the one on their site. I ultimately chose the Royal Tannenbaum and [spoiler alert] I chose well.

It’s a very interesting mix of rye whiskey, Cynar (a bitter Italian liqueur that’s made with artichokes), grapefruit juice, honey syrup, lemon juice, and pine tincture. (I thought pine tincture was fairly exotic, but it’s easily purchased online or you can use these directions to make your own, though for a product you’ll be consuming I’d suggest venturing out for clean, unsprayed pine rather than using your Christmas tree.) The drink itself was complicated and balanced and changed flavor as it moved across the palate, starting with the rye and fruit and ending with a lingering, difficult-to-pin-down bitter loveliness. I’m crossing my fingers that my favorite cocktail enthusiasts will be willing to take a crack at recreating it one of these days…


Earlier this week, Sarah McColl posted this fun visual style quiz on twitter. I have a hard time resisting that kind of thing, so I took it, and got Unpretentious Bon Vivant.

I *love* Unpretentious Bon Vivant. I feel like Unpretentious Bon Vivant is a goal, an intention, an objective to keep in mind when I’m making decisions. Like, if anyone ever asked me anymore what I want to be when I grow up, I want to be Unpretentious Bon Vivant. Since I’m a hermit who is moderately affected but with, one hopes, sufficient self-awareness to avoid pretension, I feel like I can only be helped by asking myself, ‘yes, but would Unpretentious Bon Vivant do that?’.

I do think that Unpretentious Bon Vivant would give her cat water in one of her favorite thrift-store dessert dishes.

I had some plant cuttings in a jar of water on the windowsill a few months ago and every time I turned around, the cat was drinking out of it, despite the fact that she has two bowls of water in the kitchen and she had to navigate around the plants. I figured that the novelty was appealing and filled up the custard dish for her. She still loves it, and it’s an easy way to make her happy, so there you go.

A few things on my radar:

  • I’ve been watching the first season of Bored to Death, which is pretty adorable. It also lets me engage in a pastime I enjoy: identifying the locations in movies and tv shows shot in New York (Veselka! The Greenpoint Coffee House! Ft. Greene Park!). And Sarah Vowell had a bit part in the finale; anything she does is right by me.
  • I still like snow. I don’t care. WinTER! WinTER!
  • I was feeling a little off yesterday and called in sick. But I was better in the afternoon, so I took myself to the movies. I liked Black Swan, though I think if I hadn’t heard it described as a campy ballet horror movie, I would have found some of the twists and turns a little more off-putting. And I really liked The King’s Speech.
  • Last weekend, my friends Rose and Sean had a few people over to raid their well-stocked bar and make drinks, either inventing them or consulting their library of cocktail books. Then we photographed drinks and tasted drinks and talked about the drinks, generating lots of content for their blog in the process. It was loads of fun and I came away with a few new favorites.
  • This post from Bookavore made me laugh: “Oh and as to all the people who thought and perhaps still do think that this book signals the death of literature: I found myself wondering over and over as I read this book just how weak you all think literature is. Literature has Jane Austen. Literature has MOBY-FREAKIN’-DICK. Literature has patron saints up to its eyeballs and many of them are handy with firearms.”
  • This is fascinating. The world is an amazing, amazing place.

Rhubarb Schnapps: the waiting is the hardest part

I had a fair bit of interest in the rhubarb schnapps I brought to the swap earlier this week and thought it was worth documenting the process. I’m not sure how to credit the recipe, since all I have are my own notes on a post-it, but I think it may have been in one of Nigella Lawson’s book. (Google says yes.) I haven’t tried it with other fruits, but I imagine it would work just as well with citrus or cherries or berries, anything tart and juicy.

The amounts are flexible, since everything is just proportional. You start out with your rhubarb, say, a few stalks. Wash it, chop it up and put it in a mason jar or other container. Fill the jar with the fruit, but don’t pack it too tightly. Then fill the jar with cheap — and I mean cheap, we’re talking plastic jugs here — vodka.** Set it aside for a week or so. At the end of the week, strain the mixture and discard* the fruit. Measure the liquid and calculate:

—1.5 times that amount of water
—half that amount of sugar
(so, if you have 2 cups of vodka, you need 3 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar)

Make a simple syrup using those amounts, add to the alcohol and age it at least a month. Three months is better, six months is much better. I drink the kind of wine that comes in screw-top bottles, which are perfect for recycling in this kind of project. You don’t need to do anything special to it while it’s aging; I stashed mine under the kitchen sink with the date it would be ready taped to the bottle and moved it to the fridge after that date. I liked it with seltzer and lemon over ice, but it also makes a nice after-dinner drink, the kind of thing crime-fighting old ladies might sip after a big meal, served very cold and in a tiny glass.

*If you’re using cherries or raspberries or something, they might be great after soaking in vodka for a week. Rhubarb, not so much.

**Edited to add: I’ve had a couple of questions about using expensive vodka instead of the plastic-jug stuff. Happily, Hank Shaw just addressed this issue in his post about making mirto, the Sardinian myrtle berry liqueur, in which he writes that, “…you get better extraction of an herb’s flavors with the higher alcohol content.” So, it’s not just any cheap booze you’re looking for, it’s the booziest cheap booze you can find.